"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Monday, May 30, 2011

ConQuesT in Kansas City

This past weekend was ConQuesT, Kansas City's own sci fi and fantasy convention.  Those of you who have been following my blog long enough may remember this was the place where I had my brush with greatness one year ago -- ten full minutes in one-on-one conversation with George RR Martin.  That had me smiling for a long time.  Still makes me smile now. 

George wasn't around this year for the festivities, but I had plenty of other things going on to keep me happy.  I participated in several panels with authors and publishers, including Lynette Burrows, Tessa Gratton, Tamora Pierce, Selena Rosen, Susan Satterfield, Allison Stein and H.G. Stratmann.  On Saturday, several authors from Hadley Rille Books got together for a panel of readings, including Hadley Rille editor Eric T. Reynolds, M.C. Chambers (author of SHAPER'S VEIL, just released this weekend), Chris McKitterick (author of TRANSCENDENCE) and Nathaniel Williams (author and contributor to the anthology FOOTPRINTS). 

Thanks to this panel of readings, I have an audio recording to share with you this week.  This excerpt is a scene from the battle sequence of EOLYN, which -- if I may humbly remind everyone -- was described as "vigorously written" in a recent review by PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.  It's a short excerpt with a brief description of the novel up front.  I hope you enjoy the listen.

In other news, EOLYN now has several customer reviews on Amazon.  To read them, click HERE

The next event for EOLYN will be a reading and signing at Prospero's Parkside Books, 208B NW Highway 7, Blue Springs, Missouri, on Sunday, June 12 at 2pm.  I'm working on a special gift for anyone who joins us and purchases the novel.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The World I Want to Live In

I lost an opportunity yesterday because of fear. Let that be a lesson to us all.  (I suppose I should add here, that one of the underlying themes of EOLYN is the debilitating power of fear; how so often it is the fear of danger -- rather than danger itself -- that proves the greatest obstacle to attaining our dreams.)

It was my idea to hike up to the meadow overlooking the fourth reflection plot, a relatively recent clear cut (‘recent’ being, in my estimation, about 10 years old). The plot is a mess to walk through. Splintered stumps of dead trees litter the area. The tallest saplings are now up to four meters high, densely packed, with a thorny net of dry ferns, broken twigs and sprawling raspberry bushes underfoot, the latter just beginning to show their happy white flowers. It was almost impossible to navigate the area without getting cut, scraped, tripped up or otherwise waylaid as we tried to reach that meadow.

The brambles didn’t bother me, though. What bothered me was how steep the slope became as we approached the summit.

There were simple treats to distract me from the increasingly difficult climb for a while, like a small flat area where the weight of large animals had beaten down the grass into neat oval shapes. A resting place for deer, we concluded, judging from the tracks and the scat.

Also, the flowers were stunning:

...and there was a beautiful burgundy moss that grew in cushiony patches over the (nearly vertical and rather slippery) charcoal-colored rocks.

With a little help from my intrepid husband, halfway up I found a place where I could squat against the hillside and observe the landscape: a rugged chain of mountains covered in verdant stands of trees interrupted by patches of impossibly steep slopes, where the earth has been robbed of all greenery due to clear cutting.

I have to admit, it surprised me to see so much clear cutting on such a large scale in my home country, given the wealth, expertise and technology to which we presumably have access. I am no expert on forestry, but I learned a lot about management plans and different approaches to logging – particularly in mountainous areas with valuable forest -- during my years in Costa Rica. It now seems to me that this tiny Central American nation has a much better handle on how to make efficient use of its resources, and how to mitigate the impacts of logging, than we do.

This was about all I had time to think about before looking down made me dizzy, and I began to fret about how I was ever going to descend that slope, having made it this far up. As for Rafael’s enthusiastic suggestion that we ascend at least a little more – no way was I going to do that. At my insistence, we moved horizontally along the hill to a nearby plantation, and there found another path back down to the road.

Of course, once we returned to the car, I looked up at the meadow and wanted to be there again, and kicked myself for not being able to stay in the first place, or climb even higher, as it would have been a wonderful spot to write a full reflection -- my last reflection as a writer-in-residence at Andrews Forest. But what was done was done.  The opportunity to stand upon that particular meadow had come and gone.  At least I could say I’d given it a try.

So I sought comfort in a little hot chocolate, and then ventured back a short way into that bramble-carpeted stand of young firs to finish my thoughts on the impacts and aftermath of clearcutting.

When Tim Fox first showed us this site, he mentioned the Long Term Ecological Reflections program was thinking about locating a more recent clear cut for use by the writers-in-residence. I see the importance of having a barren landscape evaluated by the writers-in-residence, but I also think it would be useful – as long as LTER is going to be at this for another 200 years – to have authors continually visit the same harvested patch, to follow its growth and recovery after clearcutting, which probably constitutes the largest single impact humans can have on a stretch of forest.

As I mentioned earlier, the trees here have reached about 4 or 5 meters in height. They are uniform in their Christmas-tree shape, and crowded tight in their intense, albeit slow-motion, struggle to see who gets to be the next 400-year-old giant. (Though whether they will be allowed that much time is a mystery to me; whoever manages this piece of land may have other plans.) The tips of their branches are studded with the buds of new leaves, fresh and pale green, soft as feathers to the touch.

Interspersed among the young conifers is the occasional dogwood, its highest branches adorned with bold ivory flowers. Small flocks of birds are common, but they never held still long enough for us to identify what they were. And as for the tiniest critters…Well, there are ticks here. The moment I realized that, it suddenly became rather difficult to focus on writing.

Recent clear cuts are a grim site, but a young patch of forest like this – having rebounded within a few years following mass destruction – is a place of hope. The saplings look young and vigorous, ready for anything, though they do lack the rich character and individuality of their older counterparts. If I could translate the feel of their presence into human-speak, it would go something like this:

Hah!  Here we are, ready to go again. You can’t beat us back, little human. All we need is earth, sun, water and time, and we will be old once again, in ways that you can only imagine.

Their determined growth is an act of defiance, really. A mockery of my anthropocentric view of the world.  It is as if these young trees somehow know they have a gift I do not. After all, they can endure the passage of time through centuries. Some of them may have four hundred years of life and experience ahead. I have – at this point -- maybe forty.

So who loses out, really, when we raze old growth forest? Granted, there are some notable species we may drive to extinction in our hunger for destruction; the northern spotted owl being a prime example. But the trees, left to their own devices for a few hundred years, given some peace and distance from us bothersome humans, will weave their magic once again. They will rebuild their forest, slowly and inexhorably, filling it with beauty, mystery and complexity. By the time they have finished, we will no longer be around to see their work of art.  Indeed, our legacies as individuals -- and perhaps even as a people -- will have been long forgotten.

We often think of conservation as something we engage in for the good of future generations; and in a very deep and important way, it is. Yet there are many aspects of conservation that are not just about the future, and Old Growth Forest is one of them. Once these ancient forests are gone, they will not return.  Not in our lifetime, not for our children, nor for our children’s children.  Not for many human generations to come.

So the question I have in mind, when I contemplate these treasures of thought and imagination, is not only  “What kind of world do I want to leave behind for those to come?” The question I also ask is, “What kind of world do I want to live in right now?”


This is the sixth installment in my weeklong series as a Writer-in-Residence for the Andrews Forest Long Term Ecological Reflections Program.

Many thanks to Rafael Aguilar Chaves for the photos. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Legends in the Making (or Why Every Fantasy Writer Needs a Good Forest)

Today I visited the fourth and final reflection plot, and area that was clear cut some years ago.  I'm going to let my thoughts on that experience simmer for a little while, and will come back to write about this final reflection plot tomorrow. 

Instead, I want to take a brief break from my essays and share with you some more of the great images my husband has caught with his ever-reliable digital camera -- just a few examples of the infinite opportunities a mature forest offers for the playful imagination.  Most of these photos come from hikes along the old growth trails of Andrews Forest.

Fans of Tolkien will be familiar with the Ents of Middle Earth.  As you might be glad to know, Ents are still alive and well in the oak forests of Talamanca in Costa Rica -- I have a few photos of them from my time there (although to the untrained eye they are almost indistinguishable from mature oaks).  I've been very pleased these past few days to find signs of remnant populations in the mountains of Oregon as well.  We did not come across any breeding adults (they may be hard to distinguish from the older firs), but we did spot this fledgling wrapped in warm moss just to my husband's left:

And this adolescent a little further down the same trail.  Perhaps they are siblings?

Old growth forests are, of course, full of wonderful ingredients for magic spells and potions, like this rust-colored morel, which is almost certainly essential for some dark and powerful spell as yet unknown to me:

Note the abundant lichens littering the forest floor around the mushroom, which are likely collected and used for similar purposes.  And of course, what witch's brew is complete without a plump little newt:

Though of course, I could NEVER toss this little guy into a boiling pot of water.  He's way too cute to suffer such a terrible fate. 

Here's a rather strange formation from an exposed root of a tree.  I'll let you decide what it could be, what it might mean, and how you'd like to use it in your next story.  (And if you'd like to share your ideas, please post in the comments below!)

Finally, when we weren't comuning with young and spritely Ents, we were talking to gnomes, which like the Douglas-firs grow to be quite large and old in this forest.  Here's one we managed to catch on film, standing just to the right of the trail:

That's it for today.  My stay at Andrews Forest is almost finished now.  One more full day tomorrow, and then we'll head to the coast for a night before returning to Portland and then to Kansas City.  I'd say tomorrow will be my last installment related to my residency here, but I'm not quite sure about that -- I have a feeling I'll be reflecting on my stay at Andrews for some time to come. 

I moved forward a bit more on my short story for Briana today.  I think it's going to be a nice one, and may post some excerpts here in the coming week or so. 

Next weekend is ConQuest in Kansas City!  I'll be participating in several panels as well as a Hadley Rille Authors Panel and a Book Signing Party on Saturday.  For details about my schedule at ConQuest, as well as other upcoming events, please visit my author's page on Amazon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lookout Creek

AKMAEL SPENT HOURS wading with the girl Eolyn along the river bank, both of them taking care not to wander too deep into the swift current. The elusive rainbow snail never appeared but many other creatures danced in the water for their entertainment. Large silver fish jumped over the deeper rapids, their strong bodies flashing in the bright spring sun. Darting guppies scattered at their feet and nipped at their toes if they stood still long enough. They found tiny water dragons clinging to the underside of heavy rocks and whirligigs and water beetles filling the still edge of the river with frenetic activity. Bright blue shrimp scuttled along the rocky bottom, and Eolyn caught several to take back home because, as she enthusiastically informed Akmael, they made for an excellent stew. –EOLYN, Chapter 4

Last summer, I wrote a brief post entitled Rivers of Destiny in which I talked about the forest rivers of Costa Rica, and how they inspired the scene in Chapter 4 of my novel where Eolyn and Akmael meet for the first time. I was reminded of that scene, once again, while visiting the third site for the Long-Term Ecological Reflections Program at Andrews Forest.

Lookout Creek runs just behind Andrews Forest Station. It’s a broad (about 10m wide) expanse of crystalline water that in Costa Rica would qualify as a river. In returning to this site, I wasn’t entirely sure whether Tim Fox – who had shown us the reflection plots on our first day here – meant for the reflection to be completed right on the banks of the creek, or just off the banks underneath the forest canopy. In the end, I decided not to worry about this detail. Very unscientific of me, but really one cannot be near a stream without descending to the stream. So no matter where I started the reflection, I would have ended it in the same place: on a dry rock under the warm midday sun, watching the water flow like liquid quartz over rocks bearing earthen shades of brick, jade, rust and clay; marveling at how the water captured the sun’s light in effervescent streams of liquid fire.

The breeze was cool and unobtrusive, flowing downstream like the water. Tim Fox has told me there are studies now of “air sheds”, the movement of air masses along these ravines throughout Andrews Forest. Air, unlike water, will change the direction of its flow, moving downstream during certain periods of the diurnal cycle (usually at night, when air masses cool and grow heavier) and upstream during other periods (usually during the day, when the sun warms the air and draws it back up hill).

Flying insects were out in abundance, bright points of white against the azure sky. At the very tops of the tallest firs, we could see long strands of silk being released by spiders taking advantage of the wind currents to float toward new (and hopefully productive) hunting grounds.

The community of plants that thrive on the rocky silt banks closest to the water are very different from the towering conifers perched on the higher banks. Young stands of alder dominate, their bark smooth and thin, colored dark gray and mottled with ivory patches of lichen. In some cases, the bark was actually a deep jade green, an almost sure sign that the trunk retains some photosynthetic capacity. Which I thought was way cool.

Horse tail plants (Equitaceae) – another one of my favorite families -- were also very common. These are living fossils that once dominated the forests of the late Paleozoic. (That’s over 250 million years ago for those of you who, like me, can never keep those darned geological eras straight.) They are relatives of the ancient trees that gave us coal. Horse tails grow in segments that are easily pulled apart and then snapped back together, much to the delight of the destructive child in me. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never bothered to find out whether they can survive the trauma of dismemberment, though I would not be surprised if they can. Some plants are very hardy that way. The tropical family Piperaceae (which gives us black pepper) regularly drops pieces of itself onto the forest floor, where they take root and grow into a whole new plant.

Now wouldn’t that be a need talent to have?

I suppose it’s no accident that Eolyn and Akmael’s first encounter with each other was along the banks of the Tarba River in the South Woods. Forest streams will always be a meeting place for me – a place where the sun breaks through the dense cover of trees and mingles freely with earth and water along a thin corridor of open air. With the forest canopy held at bay, very little can hide here (though the cleverest creatures always find a way to make themselves invisible). Plants and animals that wouldn’t stand a chance in the forest understory often find a foothold, becoming an integral part of the larger landscape. It is a unique habitat where creatures from different worlds can coexist.

This is the fourth installment of a week long series based on my experiences as a writer-in-residence at Andrews Forest in Oregon. 

Many thanks to Rafael Aguilar Chaves for the photos. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shades of Black

As part of the Andrews Writers Residency, we are required to visit and reflect upon three sites in the experimental forest; a fourth site is optional. Two of these four sites have undergone some sort of intervention; in other words, wood has been extracted from them. Andrews is an experimental forest, after all, and one of the ongoing goals of research here is to evaluate the impact of different forms of harvest on the forest ecosystem.

Yesterday I wrote about the old growth forest, but that was only half of the story I had to tell. On the day we visited old growth, we also stopped by the fourth ‘optional’ site, as it is situated more or less along the same road, albeit much further up along the ridge. This site is an experimental plot where, from what I understand, wood was harvested in a selective fashion, and then the remaining forest burned in order to simulate the effect of natural fires on forest regeneration.

The feel of the site is -- as you might imagine -- completely different from old growth. The primary forest is characterized by countless shades of green, which when the sun shines are further diffracted into even subtler tones along a broad spectrum from very bright to very dark. But on the burned landscape of this fourth reflection plot, colors are not subtle and the vast shades of green have been distilled into a few dominant tones that tend toward sage.

The dense stands of trees of various ages and sizes have been replaced by a handful of giants with blackened trunks – though black is not quite a dark enough word to capture the color of the charred bark. ‘Ebony’ is too beautiful; ‘stygian’ too malevolent; ‘charcoal’ too tame. ‘Raven’, perhaps, would capture the color. But does anyone ever say ‘a raven-scorched tree’ or ‘a tree scorched to raven’?

Anyway. These giants with raven-scorched trunks are still alive, which I find remarkable. Somehow their thick shaggy bark bore the brunt of those deadly flames, protecting the living tissue in the cortex and allowing the trees to maintain admirable crowns of verdant needles. (Do trees have a way of feeling pain, I wonder? Can they, in the absence of a nervous system, still sense their bark melting, bubbling, steaming, smoking, crackling under the lick of fire?  The Magas, I think, would say 'Yes'. )

Despite the persistence of these old trees, the canopy as a whole is wide open, and that makes for a very different kind of understory, in which there is nothing ‘soft’ or ‘subtle’ as we might find in the old growth forest. The mosses and ferns have vanished, replaced by stiff prickly bushes and young firs just beginning their multi-centennial climb toward the sky. Underfoot crunch countless bare branches bleached white by fire and sun, like the scavenger-cleaned bones of some old and forgotten battlefield.

Beneath the bleached branches of dead trees, new life emerges.

I was pleased to find, in this field of destruction, plants belonging to one of my favorite families the Ericaceae (this is the same family that gives us the blueberry), growing in abundance under the mountain sun, their clusters of white bell-like flowers bringing a spot of cheer to an otherwise bleak landscape.

It was nice to run into my old friend, Ericaceae.
More than indignation, what I felt when comparing this razed patch of forest to the old growth was disappointment, a frustrated desire to find something more. If I were to return in a hundred years (or two or three), after the forest has been allowed to regenerate, that ‘something more’ would probably there, thriving in the quiet hum of a dense forest understory.

I have to admit, a single blog post is not enough to capture a day in the Andrews Forest. I’m trying to give simple snapshots here, and even so I’m two days behind on all the wonderful experiences that could be shared. Yesterday we hiked a watershed trail up through yet another tract of stunning forest, saw a multitude of fascinating creatures and then nearly got ourselves lost; well not entirely lost, but certainly headed in a direction we hadn’t quite planned. All I can say is: Thank goodness for Forest Service radios. Then today, I visited the third reflection site on Lookout Creek, which was just marvelous. That will be the focus of an upcoming post, either tomorrow or the day after.

This morning, I started on a fantasy fiction short for Briana, a scene from her youth set in the forests of East Selen. I’d give you a preview of that, except I’m not quite sure where it’s going to lead yet. Still, it’s a great feeling to take some of what I’ve experienced here and begin to channel it into a story. Writing about the magic of the forest allows me to experience it all over again.

This is the third installment in a week-long series on my experiences as a writer-in-residence at Andrews Forest in the Cascade Range of Oregon. 
Many thanks to Rafael Aguilar Chaves for the photos. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Old Growth Forest

In my first fantasy fiction publication, the short story ‘Turning Point’ ( Zahir, Issue 17), two women struggle to understand the highland forests of Costa Rica, one from a scientific perspective, the other as an artist in the making. Their passionate focus on distinct modes of inquiry generates tension – each comes to resent the other, and neither is capable of seeing the forest through her companion’s eyes. The story ends in separation; one woman abandons her present life to disappear inside a fairy ring; the other remains faithful to her career as a scientist, yet loses herself in the endless task of cataloguing the forest’s smallest creatures.

While this denouement may seem kind of depressing, in truth both women are satisfied with their choices; both will come to know the forest in a way few others have had the privilege to experience. The real tragedy, I suppose, is that no one else will ever learn of the wonderful secrets they discover.

As we hiked through the primary forest of the Cascade Range, I was reminded of this story, and I realized that whether I enter the forest as a biologist or as an author, the challenge remains the same: How can I hope to capture this world and communicate its magnificence and complexity to others?

This is the first time I’ve been asked – formally – to study the forest from a writer's perspective, and I’ve found that my approach in the first moments of the encounter is the same:

I stop.

And then I ‘listen’. With all my senses.

From the sequel to EOLYN (currently in progress):  She pressed her hands against the rough bark, closed her eyes and heard the pulse of the tree, solid and slow, a steady current that stretched toward the sky and descended into the deepest places of the earth, a quiet murmur of indomitable strength.

It is not an easy task to listen, and it is especially difficult to listen to creatures who speak in ways completely foreign to our experience. In the world of Eolyn, Mages and Magas must learn to understand the plants, animals and rocks before they can hope to master any other form of magic. Nor do I – as the author -- make their task made simple by introducing animals that speak English; rather, the maga must come to understand each animal (or plant, or mineral) on its own terms, through its own language and behavioral patterns. This is, in essence, the same task of any modern-day biologist. What we are really trying to do, with all those instruments, data points and statistics, is translate the language of ecosystems into something that can be communicated in meaningful ways to other members of our own species.

Jewels of the forest:  rain water caught by a Trilium plant.
When I ‘listen’ to the forest, the first things I tend to ‘hear’ are the familiar – a plant that belongs to a family I recognize, for example. The way the moss hangs from the branches or covers the logs. The chill of the air. The shape of the fungi. The quiet – which, as I should point out, is not the same as silence. In a forest, sound is ever-present, yet understated. The flow of the river, the hushed sway of the canopy in response to a breeze. The rhythmic chirp of a small bird, like the intermittent squeak of a tiny gate, interrupted by the sudden chatter of another. The distant monotone trill of the varied thrush. The scratch of my pen on paper, the plasticky crunkle of my rain coat.

Now there’s a phrase: ‘plasticky crunkle’. Neither word can be found in the dictionary, but then again, much of what I would like to describe about the experience of old growth forest cannot be found in a dictionary. Imagine if we had a word for every mood, texture, sound, sensation that one experiences in the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. What a rich language ours would be.

Walking the trails through Andrews Forest sometimes leaves me at a loss for words – a terrible feeling for a writer – and my immediate response is an intense desire to create new words, new ways of saying things, so that I might capture and communicate the experience.  I will, for example, study the bark of the Douglas-fir for several minutes at a time trying to decide how best to describe it.  This inner tension between a loss for words and the need for words left me wondering today to what extent wilderness has given us our language.

How many times in our long history, has someone walked into a new territory and been compelled to invent novel words or phrases because nothing he or she had handy was sufficient to describe the plants, the animals, the personality of that particular place which had been woven by nature in all its complexity?

And if we destroy old growth forest, leaving behind only the barren earth, or monotonous stands of young plantations, do we not also obliterate the potential for new ways of communication that verdant maze might have inspired?

I don’t have answers to these questions at the moment, but I believe they are worth thinking about. 

This is the second installment of a week-long series of reflections on my writer's residency at Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon.

Many thanks to Rafael Aguilar Chaves for the photos. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Born of Fire

We arrived yesterday evening at Andrews Forest Headquarters, tired but invigorated by the scenic drive from Portland to the Cascade Mountain Range.  I didn't expect to have all that much to write yet, as we only had time for a brief tour of the station and its surroundings before darkness fell and the cold set in.  But the forest has a way of speaking to you in your dreams, and by the time the sun illuminated the misty woods with a gray morning light, my head was turning with ideas and images.

During the coming days, I'm going to try to capture the mood of this forest in words; no small task as I will be with it only a short while, and already I can see that Andrews is varied and complex.  Tim Fox, former writer-in-residence and long-time member of the Andrews Forest community, showed us around the 'reflection plots' yesterday.  These are designated areas that writers must visit during their time here and investigate from a literary or creative perspective.  The program began in 2003 and will run until 2203, for a total of two hundred years of collaborative investigations of the forest by writers from different genres.  This effort runs in parallel with ongoing scientific research at the site, which is one of the most well-studied forests in the world.

The tracts of forest that we visited yesterday were dominated by Douglas fir and hemlock; each tree stretching in a single stunning pillar to the sky, trunks solid and wide at the base, the bark dark and deeply furrowed, a living image of the ancient. In the plot of primary forest that we visited, Tim told us the trees are four to five centuries old. 

This is the forest of East Selen.

Or at least, that's what I was thinking yesterday, as we drove up the Blue River Reservoir and then walked the trails around the station.  Those of you familiar with Eolyn lore will know that East Selen was the home of Akmael's mother Briana.  One of the most powerful Magas of her time, Briana witnessed the massacre of her Clan by the Mage King Kedehen after the War of the Magas.  She was then captured by the Mage King -- or surrendered willingly, depending on whose story you decide to believe -- and became Queen of Moisehen. 

The forests of Briana's childhood are different from the South Woods in which Eolyn grew up.  Eolyn's home is a mix of deciduous hardwoods dominated by oak, with a few conifers scattered throughout.  East Selen, situated further to the north, is a forest of ancient conifers dominated by fir. 

In my October 9, 2010, post entitled Tree Magick, I talk a little bit about the tree lore of the Magas and Mages of Moisehén.  Firs play a prominent role in this tradition of magic, forming a bridge between the Underwold and the world of the living, and holding the power of flight in their branches. 

Last night I was reading about the Douglas Fir in Ancient Forests of the Pacific Northwest by Elliot A. Norse (a reference that is probably a little out of date by now, but it's what I have on hand, so we'll just go with it), and I learned something new.  The Douglas Fir is a somewhat exceptional fir, not only for its height, but because it does not begin its life in the shadows of an understory covered by thick canopy.  In Norse's words, the Douglas Fir is 'conceived by fire'.  Seeds germinate and grow following periodic fires (periodic, in this sense, being once every few centuries), and the saplings thrive best in open areas with lots of sun.

This was a wonderful detail to come across because it fits so perfectly within the legends and lore of Moisehén.  So I decided, between last night and this morning, that the fir used by Magas and Mages to invoke powers of flight will also be 'born of fire', more specifically 'born of the breath of Dragon', the legendary creature who gave High Magic to Aithne and Caradoc. 

This is one of the stories I hope to develop this week:  The myth of why firs hold the power of flight, and the role of Dragon in creating this magic.

The character of Briana has also been speaking to me, and before the week is out I am certain I'll be sketching out some story or scene from her life, probably in the time before the War of the Magas.

Not bad for less than twenty-four hours.  I think I'll go get some breakfast, and then take another hike.

Photos by Rafael Aguilar-Chaves.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Week at Andrews Experimental Forest

This is going to be a short post today; more than anything I want to set the stage for the coming week, which will be devoted by my residency at the HW Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon.  Andrews is located inside Willamette National Forest.  This will be my first time visiting the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, and I am very excited.  It's the perfect follow-up to the launch of EOLYN; to immerse myself in the type of ecosystem that so inspired this novel, and to reflect once again on the influence of the forest to on that very special magic we call imagination.

Tomorrow, we fly to Portland, where I will do a book signing for EOLYN in the afternoon, starting at 5pm at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing.   On Monday, we'll drive up through Eugene to Andrews.  Once we're settled at the experimental station, I will post daily reflections based on our experience there, cross-posting to my livejournal blog as well.  I'm not really sure what will come of this week -- we'll see where the muse takes me -- but I'm expecting to gain some insights not only into the forest, but into my own process as a writer, and hopefully produce a few new stories as well.

Please join me for the adventure in Andrews Forest by visiting the blog whenever you have a chance.  It's going to be a great week!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Launch Party for EOLYN

We had a great day on May 7 at the Writers Place, with around ninety guests eager to learn about Eolyn and her world.  I was overwhelmed not only by the number of people who showed up, but by the very special guests that we had -- all the friends, family and colleagues who joined us for the celebration.  People that I've known since I was a little girl were sitting alongside the many new friends I have made since returning to my home town just a few years back. Some had even crossed rivers, mountains and oceans to be here.  It was an unforgettable reunion, filled with a lot of excitement and positive energy.

Those of you who have been keeping close track of EOLYN's journey probably remember that May 6 was the official release date.  Amazon began offering the hardcover edition over a week before, with Amazon Canada and Amazon UK putting up the title for pre-order.  But by May 6, EOLYN had gone truly global.  In addition to Amazon Canada and Amazon UK, it is now available for order through Barnes&Noble, Amazon Germany, Amazon France and even Amazon Japan

On Sunday, May 15th, I will be at Powells Books, 3415 Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton, Oregon starting at 5pm.  Copies of EOLYN will be available for purchase and signing.  If you live in the Portland area, please stop by!

Here's a brief video from the Launch Party that shows me in action during the presentation of the novel:

And you can listen to my readings of chapters 2 and 4 here:

Afterwards, I did a question and answer session with Hadley Rille Books editor Eric T. Reynolds, which you can listen to here:

You can also download the full audiorecording of my presentation of the novel and both readings at this link:

And -- last but not least -- I've posted photos on my Facebook Page for EOLYN

That's the news for this week.  EOLYN is on her way!